The Mystery Worshipper project, which produced this report, is run by ship-of-fools.com, the online magazine of Christian unrest. The project has volunteer reporters who visit churches of all denominations worldwide, leaving only a calling card in the collection plate. For further reports, visit the Mystery Worshipper at: http://ship-of-fools.com/Mystery
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223. Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln England
Mystery Worshipper: Miss Ember Day & Old Hatchment.
The church: The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Lincoln, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This is an outstanding medieval cathedral which looks stunning silhouetted against the Fenland sky. On the day that we visited, the nave was empty of pews and chairs, which created a very fine space.
The neighborhood: The cathedral and close are situated at the top of Steep Hill with a commanding view of the surrounding Diocese. Immediately opposite is Lincoln Castle, but it has been suggested that the cathedral's Norman West front was fortified.
The cast: Rev. Canon V.P. White, Canon in Residence.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
St Hugh's Choir, which lies between the east and central crossings, was about one-sixth full. Most seemed to be local regulars, with only a handful of visitors.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, although stewards were welcoming visitors into the cathedral at the west end of the nave.
Was your pew comfortable?
We sat in choir sub-stalls. The cushions and arm-rests were comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Cavernous and echoing. It was also much cooler than the blazing sunshine outside – positively chilly.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"A very warm welcome to this service of choral evensong at Lincoln Cathedral."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
We used the Book of Common Prayer and the New English Hymnal. Hymns Ancient and Modern, the New International Bible, a service guide and calendar of the week's services were also available.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The canon needed a haircut (Miss Ember Day's comment entirely – she instantly thought of early Nimmo vicar impersonations).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
More stiff-upper-lip than anything, but a bit bumbling in the spoken sections. It was what you might call "BCP standard". The spoken delivery didn't really live up to the words, although the sung delivery was fantastic. If this had been a said service, we wouldn't have been that inspired – which sounds very secular of us.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There wasn't one.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Canticles by Howells (Collegium Regale), especially the Gloria Responses by Leighton. The choir was visiting from the University of London – they were jolly good. The Howells in particular was heavenly.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing was that bad.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Sorry, we didn't hang around. Old Hatchment shook the canon's hand and then we went off to inspect the memorial to Field Marshal Sir William Robertson Bt, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, DSO (the first person to rise from Trooper to Field Marshal in the British Army).
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any, although the cathedral does have a refectory towards the north-east by the Chapter House. It was open that Sunday, but we didn't notice the opening hours.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10, for choral evensong, if we lived in Lincoln.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not particularly, but this didn't matter – we have been here before and will visit Lincoln again, so plenty of other chances.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The interesting display of University of London Degree hoods worn by the visiting choir.